Drug Abuse in the Global Village



                        Extent of Drug Abuse

For 1990, approximately 2,000 patients attended treatment services in the Greater Dublin area. Eight out of ten patients reported opiates as their primary drug of abuse. Other drugs of abuse are cannabis, sedative hypnotics, buprenorphine, volatile solvents and cocaine. One fifth had been abusing drugs for ten or more years (Ireland 1991).

                       Abuser Characteristics

Most drug abusers in treatment are male (71 per cent), 20 to 30 years of age, 53 per cent are over 25 years old, 80 per cent unemployed and 45 per cent living with their family (Ireland 1991). Abusers tend to be of urban areas, low socio-economic status, poor education and are likely to have criminal record and parental alcoholism (U.N. 1990).

                         Regional Variations

Serious drug abuse problems are reported mainly in the Dublin area and a high proportion of the drug abusers in treatment live in the inner city area (Ireland 1991).


A large increase in the abuse of opiates and buprenorphine and to a lesser extent of methadone was reported for 1989 (U.N. 1990).

                             Mode of intake

Eighty one per cent of the abusers injected drugs prior to beginning treatment while about 50 per cent injected drugs at the time of treatment contact. Most (67 per cent) reported sharing injection equipment prior to treatment while 16 per cent did so at the time of treatment contact. Multiple drug abuse is reported (opiates and buprenorphine) (Ireland 1991).


Drug related deaths. An Emergency Room study of 73 cases conducted in 1985 found that 73 per cent overdosed intentionally (86 per cent women, 38 per cent males) and 16.4 per cent had blood poisoning (WHO 1985-1990).

HIV seroprevalence/AIDS. Of the total 331 AIDS case reported for 1993, 43.5 per cent injected drugs (European Centre 1993). Drug abusers make up 57 per cent of all people found to be seropositive on testing in 1991 (WHO 1991).


                           National Strategy

The National Co-Ordinating Committee on Drug Abuse was established in 1984 by the Minister for Health to advise the Government on general issues relating to the prevention and treatment of drug abuse, monitoring the effectiveness and efficiency of measures in force to prevent and treat drug abuse, facilitate communication between the various agencies involved in the prevention and treatment of drug abuse and the submission of an annual report of the Minister for Health. An updated National Drug Abuse Prevention Strategy was published in 1991 and deals with both the supply and demand aspects of the drug problem. The Government's strategy recognizes the need for an increased community involvement into the treatment and rehabilitation of drug abusers (Ireland 1991).


                           Treaty adherence

Ireland is Party to the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs as amended by the 1972 Protocol and to the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances.


                          Primary Prevention

Prevention through education is not carried out in primary schools. Eight pilot projects were implemented in secondary schools in 1991. Their primary focus is self esteem, others influences, assertiveness and decision making skills. Some schools undertook autonomous programmes which address drug abuse in the context of a broader social and health education programme. A Drug awareness Programme of the Catholic Social Service Conference provides personnel to visit schools providing information on drugs. The Departments of Education and Health prepared educational resource material on HIV/AIDS targeting secondary schools. A needle and syringe exchange scheme associated with counselling was introduced as part of a Dublin outreach programme (CMO 1991).

                 Treatment and Rehabilitation

Programmes aim to match treatment and rehabilitation to individual needs. In the Dublin area, there are outreach services, walk in centres (providing counselling, methadone maintenance, occupational rehabilitation, HIV risk reduction services (needle exchange) and detoxification), primary care by general practitioners (methadone dispensed by community pharmacists), hospital based detoxification and residential rehabilitation projects. Detoxification and methadone maintenance (mostly for those at risk of HIV infection) are used as two complementary treatment approaches in Ireland. Approximately 1 400 patients are treated every year (CMO 1991).


      Arrests, Convictions and types of Offences

A total of 2,071 persons were charged in 1990 for possession of drugs and 189 for trafficking. This represents a 54 per cent increase from 1989 (1,344). Cannabis related charges were most prevalent in the years 1980 to 1990. In 1990, 73 per cent of all conviction were cannabis related, followed by heroin related conviction (4 per cent). Convictions related to heroin decreased between 1980 and 1990, convictions related to other opiates (i.e., morphine) increased (Ireland 1991).

            Forty per cent of the total prison population in 1991 were drug abusers (98.5 per cent males). General medical care, vocational training, general education and social reintegration are provided in all prisons while detoxification and counselling on drug related diseases are provided in some prisons (CMO 1991).


The number of drug seizures peaked in 1983, decreased by 1987 but increased from 1 562 in 1989 to 2,316 in 1990. These increases tend to reflect small seizures of cannabis possessed for personal use rather than indicate significant increases in trafficking (Ireland 1991). Cannabis resin seized (114.760 kg in 1990) led all other seizures. Heroin seizures were modest (0.578 kg in 1990). No seizures of crack were reported. Other drugs seized in 1990 were cocaine (1 kg), morphine (1.370 litres), synthetic narcotics (4.100 litres), hallucinogens (0.62 kg), LSD (0.090 kg) and stimulants (0.264 kg and 133 units) (U.N. 1990).

                      Supply Source of Drugs

Heroin seized in Ireland is reported to have been purchased in the United Kingdom (U.N. 1990).

                       References and Notes

** The Legal, Administrative and Other Action Taken to Implement the International Drug Control Treaties section was prepared by the Secretariat of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs based on Annual Reports Questionnaires for the years .... (not available by January 15th 1994).

U.N. 1990. Reply to UNDCP Annual Reports Questionnaire for the year 1990.

CMO 1991. Reply to the UNDCP Questionnaire regarding the seven targets to the Comprehensive Multidisciplinary Outline of Future activities in Drug Abuse Control (CMO), 1991.

WHO 1991. AIDS among Drug Abusers in Europe, review of recent developments,WHO Regional Office for Europe, 1991.

European Centre 1993. European Centre for the Epidemiological Monitoring of AIDS, AIDS Surveillance in Europe, Quarterly report No. 38, 30 June 1993.

Ireland 1991. National Report of Ireland to the First Pan European Ministerial Conference on Illicit Drug Abuse Problems, Oslo, 9-10 May 1991.

WHO 1985-1990. First European Summary on Drug Abuse (ESDA) 1985-1989/1990, WHO.